KATLEGO PHEEHA

After their 2012 FNB Varsity Cup triumph, several Tuks players caught the eye of rugby franchises, earning themselves contracts with professional teams. Most of these players, failing to secure a place with the Blue Bulls, have gone on to sign with other clubs. Wesley Dunlop recently joined newly promoted Super Rugby side EP Kings, 2012 Tuks 1 captain Jono Ross signed for English club Saracens, and Daniel Adongo was contracted by New Zealand’s Counties Manukau in August. Few, however, have made as much of an impression as Clayton Blommetjies, who has secured his place with the Blue Bulls in this year’s Currie Cup tournament.

Born in Paarl, Western Cape, Blommetjies started his provincial rugby career when he was 15 years old. He played for Boland’s u/16 side at the 2006 Coca Cola Grant Khomo Week. He showed his natural talent as a utility back, with a good knack for occupying other areas besides his preferred full-back position. The following year he again featured for Boland, this time at the prestigious Craven Week. It was there that Blommetjies first caught the eye of professional rugby scouts, and in 2009 he was called up to join South Africa’s campaign for the IRB Junior World Championships held in Japan. It would be two whole years after graduating from high school before Blommetjies got a chance to play Varsity Cup rugby, but in 2010 he finally got his chance after he was recruited by TuksRugby.

The 2012 Varsity Cup was Blommetjies’s breakthrough season. He was named the Back That Rocks, an award given to the best back of the season. He narrowly missed out on the Player of the Year award, which was won by teammate Wesley Dunlop. Blommetjies was also called up to the represent the Springbok Sevens in the HSBC World Series for the Glasgow and London tours. This season Blommetjies has started all four matches that the Bulls have played, playing the first three on the wing and moving to full back against Western Province.

Blommetjies has many aspects to his game which make him an asset to his team, but he is mostly praised for his outstanding ability with the high ball and his work rate. After his performance in the Bulls’s win against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld, Blommetjies displayed the potential to be one of the country’s best. “Bulls left wing Clayton Blommetjies did just about everything – chasing the kick-offs, the high balls, popping up at scrumhalf and producing a service most international number nines would be proud of, tackling big forwards like Jean Deysel and then even managed an awesome touch-finder from near his 22 that drove the Sharks back to their own try line. He gets our [Man of the Match] award,” wrote iAfrica Sports, one of the continent’s biggest online media sports agencies. He was later named on Rugby 365’s Team of the Week ahead of Raymond Rhule of the Free State Cheetahs where he was described as “a player who used the Varsity Cup to propel himself to the big time and now he performs [well] on the Currie Cup stage.”

It may be far too early to tell if Blommetjies will follow in the steps of a player like Juan de Jong, who became the first and only Varsity Cup player to represent the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup. But judging by the rapid progress the 22-year-old has made, Clayton Blommetjies may just be South African rugby’s next big star.

Photo: Kobus Barnard 

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